Peace on Earth needs the shedding of the colonial past, a democratic United Nations and the revival of the Spirit of Bandung
Joseph Mathai and Sandeep Chachra
The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and the reactions it has evoked across ideological fault lines, are cause for anguish and concern for all peace-loving people across the globe. Militarist and imperialist posturing have added fresh shrapnel to the bodies and spirit of several hundred million people, whose families, homes, lives and futures have been condemned into insecure lives as refugees, stateless and internally displaced peoples. These are also added insults to the buried memories of an estimated 108 million who perished in the wars of the twentieth century. The book “What Every Person Should Know About War” by Chris Hedges, from where this statistic comes goes on to state that an estimated 8% of human history, was a time of peace and the rest of wars.
Of particular concern is how reactions to the conflict through not just the mouths of individuals, but also of media personnel. Media personnel from “reputed” outlets are expressing their special surprise that such conflict is afflicting a “civilized” country in Europe, as if conflict is condonable if it takes place in Asia, Africa and South America. Non-white people fleeing from the conflict are being humiliated and harassed by personnel, and it is particularly disturbing to see videos and hear reports of denied access to relief, aid and the right to cross the border to safety.
This is open racism at play, signifying not only the subsurface attitudes of several erstwhile colonialists, but also demonstrating in their continued determination to run the world to suit their own interests, with scant regard for the dispossessed and denied people of the Global South.
We see these very attitudes at play in the way in which efforts to ensure climate justice are stopped and the West does little to stop climate change and refuses to take responsibility to the manifold consequences that are creating havoc for most vulnerable communities of the world. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the North blocked moves to create a globally accessible vaccine and have allowed gross inequalities to widen such that a tiny group of billionaires have seen their fortunes multiply, while millions are being pushed back into poverty and precarity.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, was one of the Tier I predictions of the Preventive Priorities Survey published on 10 January, 2022 by the Center for Preventive Action, the Council on Foreign Relations. According to the survey, “increased fighting in eastern Ukraine or a major military clash” was of moderate likelihood with high impact. With the benefit of hindsight, one could ask why were they so conservative in their prediction.
The role of NATO in the ongoing conflict is of particular significance. The relevance of the organisation in a post-Cold War situation has been questioned by some. After the breakup of the USSR, many of the constituents of the erstwhile Warsaw Pact countries have joined NATO. One of the greatest of ironies is that even Russia was seeking entry into this body, that should have been disbanded with the fall of Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire”. What keeps NATO relevant are the national interests of the US, and those of its deep-rooted allies.
The Preventive Priorities Survey published on 10 January, 2022 by the Council on Foreign Relations lists twenty-seven other such conflict situations across the globe. Other Tier I predictions include Afghanistan, Haiti, Lebanon, Venezuela, China-Taiwan, Iran-Israel, Mexico and North Korea.
In the face of the range of challenges threatening the globe, the ongoing conflict situations underscores the need to spread the message that “War condemns both the victor and the vanquished!” We need a global solidarity movement to condemn all who push the world towards conflict and call for effective processes and institutions that will ensure peace and equality amongst the nations of the world.
The United Nations was established to maintain “international peace and security”, “friendly relations among nations” and “social progress, better living standards and human rights”. However, the role of UN as a peacekeeper has been stymied by the unequal position of members countries, with five permanent member countries in the UN Security Council, using their veto power to protect their “national interests”. The United States has too often side-lined the UN to engage in arbitrary international action, including full scale invasions on specious grounds. It is only a truly democratic and reformed United Nations that will be able to play the peace-keeping role its charter mandates it to.
The end of the cold war, saw the emergence of a unipolar world with a dominant US and an expansionist NATO, which is now being challenged. We do not need a world riven in a conflict between two or three groupings, and unending stories of their culpabilities. We need the coming together of global South once again for peace and equality of all people of the earth. We need a revival of the true spirit of Bandung, which saw the rise of the Non-Aligned Movement- once called the world’s largest peace movement standing for peace, progress and solidarity.
More than ever, the 21st Century needs all the peace-loving peoples of this Earth coming together and working to advance equality and harmonious co-existence, at peace with each other and mother nature. Our pasts beleaguered by wars, should not be the future foretold for those who shall inherit the world. A peaceful future will never be achieved by an “international community” dominated by the West that has not given up its colonial past. A resurgent Global South needs to play a stronger role on the world stage.